Blog Talk with October June
Blogging is a journey, not the destination--a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, effort, encouragement, and a lot of research to take a budding blog to a new level. I recently took part in an interview with one of my amazing sponsors, Elizabeth from October June, to discuss all things BLOG. If you're a seasoned blogger, a newbie, or someone who is interested in starting a blog, I think you'll find this blog talk interesting and helpful!
Q: Why/how did you decide to become a blogger?
E: I've always loved writing, so it seemed like a sort of natural progression of things. I started a blog for the heck of it a couple summers ago, and I just wrote about little things that struck my fancy, but I didn't take it seriously. I didn't even realize it was a thing I could take seriously. I started and ended several different blogs over the next year or so, but I finally started up what was then Emphatically Elle in January of 2013. I joined some blogging networks and quickly realized how large and amazing a blogging community was out there, and decided to start taking it seriously and I've loved every minute of it.
M: I started reading blogs my senior year of college, mostly following DIY and fashion blogs, though never very seriously. I loved that I felt inspired to try something new after reading blogs. When I graduated college in May 2012, I wanted a new hobby--one that could combine my love of writing and creativity. Even though I had no clue what I'd write about (I often still don't!) or if anyone would want to read what I had to say, I jumped right in, head first. By the end of the first week, I had ten posts drafted and a giveaway. (A little ambitious, right?) Three months later, I purchased a domain name and a theme and I've never looked back since.
Q: What are three things you did to get to where you are today in terms of blogging?
E: 1. Taught myself a lot of design work. When I first started, I had a clear(ish) idea of what I wanted my site to look like, because I've always been creative and design minded, but I didn't really know how to accomplish what I wanted to do in terms of Photoshop and such. But I started by googling and looking on Pinterest and asking questions, and I figured out where I wanted to be. And with this newest re-brand and re-design, I even started teaching myself more about coding and CSS and HTML. It can get overwhelming, but I love having an uber personalized blog that looks like the vision in my head. (Here's a tutorial to get you started small with a blog button.)
2. I got over myself and my anxieties. For the longest time, I was afraid to show anyone that I actually knew "in real life" what I had been working on. I've always been really insecure and anxious about showing people things I've created or written, especially when I can actually see them reacting and judging. When I started getting positive comments on my site from other people, I showed a select few people I actually knew, and when their reactions were overwhelmingly positive, my confidence was bolstered. It took a while, but I finally started posting my links on my personal profiles and sharing with my friends and family. It was scary at first, but now I think it's really cool. I always get a really warm, fuzzy feeling when my coworkers talk about how they like my design, or my relatives discuss my latest post over lunch, or my friends refer to me as "the blogger".
3. Networking. When I first started out a year ago, I thought I wanted to be a cut and dry fashion blogger, so I joined the network at Independent Fashion Bloggers and through their forums and promotions and such, I gained a lot of readers and friends. Then I was lucky enough to be accepted into the inaugural batch of Her Campus Blogger Network members, and I've built such an amazing support group there that I feel truly blessed. It's great to have likeminded people to bounce ideas off of, ask questions, and share links with.
Q: What are your blog aspirations?
M: There are so many directions I want to go in terms of blogging, so I am trying to settle on short-term and long-term goals. Short-term, I'd like to grow organically through guest posting, sponsorships, collaborations, and quality content, hopefully reaching 1,000 followers via one network (1,000 Facebook fans or 1,000 Bloglovin' followers, for example). This may mean writing fewer, but more meaningful and helpful posts. Long-term, I would love to be able to pay some of my bills from blogging income, write an e-book on starting a blog, attend a blog conference (like Alt Summit), and teach blogging workshops. They may be lofty, high- reaching goals, but blogging has showed me that pretty much anything is possible.
Q: How does money factor into your blogging experience? Can people still have successful blogs without spending money?
E: For me, I do try to invest in my blog. Being a semi-broke college student, I can't afford to go all out with the crazy nice DSLR camera and $200 design packages - and I've always been of the why-buy-it-if-I-can-DIY-it? persuasion as well. So I figured a lot of stuff out myself regarding that. I think it's possible to have a successful blog without dropping tons of cash, but it can help. One place that I would suggest setting money aside for is advertising. Sponsoring other blogs around your size and niche is a great way to gain exposure and makes tons of friends, and build your network! But honestly, I haven't spent a ton of money on my site just yet - I think it's more of a personal decision.
Q: How has blogging affected you and your life?
M: It's crazy to admit this, but it really has changed everything. Of course there are things that blogging has made more challenging (like getting out of the door without taking a picture or knowing what should and shouldn't be shared publicly), but it has also made life so much more meaningful and enjoyable. One day, I'll be able to look back and see this giant scrapbook of creativity and life. More than that, it has kept my brain sharp and my writing skills refined, all while teaching me about photography, style, design, and branding. It has opened an entire world of possibilities career-wise and I can't wait to see where it takes me in life.
E: I know everyone says this, but it is true - it's made me more confident in myself and my abilities. I mean, when you're broadcasting your thoughts and opinions for everyone to read, and people are responding positively to it, it's always an ego boost. But I'm more sure in my writing abilities, my artistic abilities, and my sense of style than ever before - and I recognize even more fully the importance and awesomeness of being unique (but that just might be from getting older).
Q: What advice would you give to new bloggers or individuals on the fence about blogging?
E: Just jump in! You don't have to have everything figured out to start blogging, and you don't have to have a one in a million idea - just start writing, or photographing, or whatever it is you'd like to do. But also, do your research if you want to take it seriously. Read up on the differences between Blogger and Wordpress, look up how to get a domain and if you need or want one, and definitely join a network somehow - there are hundreds of them, ranging from generic to very specific. But don't let it all bog you down - and don't think you need to do it all. You don't have to immediately create a Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, Lookbook, Chictopia, Bloglovin', or WHATEVER ELSE. There's a lot of pressure, but if you're not into all that right now, just give it time. It's a learning experience.